After completing yearlong discussions that resulted Tuesday (Aug. 27) in the acquisition of Livin’ Lite RV LLC, Thor Industries Inc. President and CEO Bob Martin likes the look not just of 2013, but of the future as well.
And, according to a report by the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, the Wednesday release of the latest shipment numbers by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) certainly verified there’s much to like about the present.
The industry announced that wholesale shipments of RVs are up 14.7% over the same month last year, the 19th straight month that has happened.
A total of 26,212 units were shipped in July, moving the total for the year past the 200,000 mark at 201,120. That is 13.1% over the total through July of last year.
In 2009 during the recession, the total units shipped for the year was 165,700. Now, shipments are expected to surpass 300,000 and make it four straight years of increased shipments.
Thor, which owns Airstream Inc. in Ohio, Dutchmen Manufacturing Inc. and Keystone RV Co. in Goshen, Crossroads RV in Topeka, Heartland Recreational Vehicles LLC and Thor Motor Coach in Elkhart, plus the newly acquired Livin’ Lite in Wakarusa, is now solely concentrating on RVs.
Martin believes the increased numbers can continue.
“Definitely, the industry has been on a very nice comeback,” Martin said. “It dropped to a level that was very low quickly, and it’s slowly but surely coming out of the recession.”
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Wholesale shipments of all RVs continued at a torrid pace in July where manufacturers reported a total of 26,212 units for the month, an increase of 14.7% ahead of the same month one year ago. Conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers and Class A and Class C motorhomes grew the most with truck campers and Class B motorhomes off slightly.
On a seasonally adjusted basis, wholesale shipments in July were at an annualized rate of more than 339,000 units, nearly 12% greater than the previous month and ahead of this same month last year by more than 14%. Through July, manufacturers have reported a total of 201,120 units shipped to retailers, up 13.1% over this same period last year.
Through the midway point of 2013, RV wholesale shipments tracked by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) have climbed to 174,871 units, 12.8% higher than the same point last year. Motorhome shipments have jumped by 33%, rising from 19,425 units this year versus 14,576 units last year. Towable shipments have grown from 140,412 units to 155,446 units, a gain of 10.7%.
Total monthly wholesale shipments to retailers of all RVs were reported at 30,856 units in the June survey of manufacturers, an increase of 12.1% compared to this same month last year. This marked the 18th consecutive monthly total that was ahead of the same month one year earlier. Towable RVs increased 8.7% on shipments of 27,409 units while motorhome shipments were ahead by 48.2% on 3,447 units shipped to dealers in June. Seasonally adjusted, June’s total represented an annualized rate of 302,700 units.
Along with the omelets and pork sausages in the buffet line, Doug Gaeddert, chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and a general manager of Elkhart, Ind.-based Forest River Inc., served up some straight-shooting opinions in his remarks during the RV Power Breakfast, May 9 at the Northern Indiana Event Center, a part of the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart. Here’s a few highlights from Gaeddert, who served with Dicor President Gregg Fore as a co-emcee:
Current shipment vitality: “Total shipments for the first three months of 2009 were approximately 30,500 units compared with 79,422 units for the January through March period of this year. That’s a whopping 160% jump. So, if you feel like you’ve been running faster and working harder – you have been and that’s great for all of us. It’s also great for the local communities in Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan. We’re all somewhat joined at the hip and the positive ripple effect has been felt by nearly everyone – even the local, state and federal governments who seem to be constantly complaining about revenue.”
Hershey Show & the Open House: “Not as RVIA chairman or a long-term Forest River-Pete Liegl guy, but as an industry guy, I think the Open House Week, as it has come to be known, has been a positive for the industry and hits at a perfect time. While negatively impacting the Dealer Days of Hershey, whose wholesale value has steadily declined anyhow over the years, it has more than made up for it by further enhancing the retail portion of the show. With the Open Houses immediately following Hershey, the number of dealers attending the Pennsylvania Show from outside the market who don’t show product has declined, but most, if not all of the products being displayed at Hershey, are now what’s ‘new’ for the upcoming year. This gives retail customers the opportunity to get the first look and actually purchase new industry offerings. This is something that can’t be duplicated anywhere else in North America.
“Becky Lenington and the folks at the Pennsylvania RV & Camping Association (PRVCA) have done an awesome job of developing Hershey into one of the most outstanding retail shows on the continent. They draw people from a wider geographic area and in larger numbers than ever before, and dealers sell a ton of product. This has become, in my opinion, a destination show of the highest quality. I’m not going to get drawn into a comparison though of it versus Tampa or Pomona. They’re all tremendous shows!
“Hershey kicks off the fall schedule and Louisville effectively closes it. Post-Louisville surveys over the last couple of years have shown that the majority of dealers participating will continue to go to the Open Houses and will continue to attend Louisville – and don’t want to change the time frames of either. Seems pretty simple: They like both of the events as well as the timing. Obviously it’s not unanimous, but it’s an overwhelming majority. With that being said, I predict a certain degree of consolidation will occur among these other fall events, just as it has occurred in other sectors of the industry over the last few years. Nature will take its course over time, but nobody will successfully force it.”
RVIA’s Louisville Show: “Although industry shipments have been rising rapidly over the last few years, the number of OEMs, suppliers and dealer/owners has shrunk by around a third. With an approximate 33% reduction of players in these key categories, not even taking the campground ownership consolidation into consideration, why in the world would you expect attendance at this show to have grown? In my opinion, Louisville has hit the leveling-out point, and with possible further industry consolidation ahead, I don’t see it growing significantly, but I do see it remaining steady and continuing to grow in value.”
RV-Specific Legislation: “Cars and RVs shouldn’t operate according to the same rules. As our industry continues to grow, mature and consolidate, I believe it will become even more important that we see RV-specific legislation replace automotive legislation in those states in which we as an industry are governed by car laws. Oklahoma is an excellent recent example of a win/win/win for our industry by everyone working successfully together to get RV-specific law into place. RV manufacturers, RV dealers and RV suppliers deserve to play by rules specific to our industry. We are the RV industry, not the car industry – and proud of it.”
RV Transportation Issues: “One challenge which the industry seems to face every year in the spring is a shortage of finished goods transportation availability. As many of you are aware, this sector is currently struggling to keep up and will be until at least the first week of July. We are attempting a new and different approach by utilizing RVIA’s resources to see if we can’t help smooth it out for the long haul.
“RVIA is exploring several possible strategies in hopes of being able to positively impact the RV transportation sector for both the United States and Canada. No promises at this point, other than we are diligently working on it. If successful, however, it will be too late to affect spring and summer of 2013. We hope to be able to help the industry improve the peak shipping periods of 2014.”
Credit Availability: “I think it is crucial our industry — which includes all of us — remains disciplined in our approach to credit. Solid practices are one of the keys to our growth remaining real and sustainable. If we slip back into the same lax practices the industry utilized in 2008, we’ll end up with the same result. 2009 reminded me of a fastball I once threw that was hit back at me a hell of a lot faster than I threw it, resulting in my second broken nose and a busted tooth! Let’s not throw that same fastball as an industry again!”
Industry Relationships: “Probably the single coolest thing to me about being involved in the RV Industry for all of these years is the people. Take a minute to look around the room. Most of us compete with each other, sell to each other, buy from each other, finance each other, represent each other, write about each other and, yeah, probably even cuss at each other sometimes. But at the end of the day, we’re also basically good friends. It’s a close-knit industry that, while growing rapidly, is also getting smaller at the same time.”
Wholesale shipments of all RVs surged ahead in the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) January 2013 survey of manufacturers, rising to 24,379 units. This increase was 30.5% greater than the total shipped during the same month last year. While the gain was greatest for conventional travel trailer shipments, all vehicle categories participated in the gains this month. Seasonally adjusted, January’s total was measured at annualized rate of more than 340,000 units, 12.2% better than the rate recorded in December 2012 and more than 30% better than the annualized rate recorded in January, one year ago. Conventional travel trailers, Class A and C motorhomes reported shipments more than 30% greater than in January 2012.
Total RV shipments to retailers for all of 2012 increased to 285,749 units, a gain of 13.2% over the 2011 total. Towable RV shipments alone rose to 257,551 units in 2012, a 13.2% increase over the 2011 total and more than all RV shipments last year. Motorhome totals in 2012 climbed to 28,198 units, a gain of 13.6% over the prior year and their best year since 2008.
Monthly RV shipments to retailers were reported at 18,960 units in the December 2012 survey of manufacturers, an increase of 11.6% over this same month one year ago. Shipments of both towable and motorhome categories were greater in December with towables ahead by the largest unit increases while motorhomes were ahead by the largest percentage gains. On a seasonally adjusted basis, December shipments were at an annualized rate of over 307,000 units, less than the November rate but the best December pace since 2007.
Many industries wish they could have the performance that the recreational vehicle sector recorded in 2012, according to a report in the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune.
With December numbers yet to be fully tabulated by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), RV shipments to dealers were up each month through November compared with the corresponding month in 2011.
Those figures are very important to the northern Indiana economy. RVIA estimates that 82% of all recreational vehicles built in the U.S. are made in the region, with more than 24,000 people employed in either the RV manufacturing or supply sector.
RV wholesale shipments to retailers increased to 20,561 units in November, a 25.2% increase from November of 2011.
“The numbers being up are a good sign for everybody,” said Matt Rose, newly named director of recreational vehicles for the Recreation Vehicle Indiana Council (RVIC). “Everyone knows what direction we’re going.”
The RV market is based on consumer confidence, Rose said, and it’s running pretty high right now.
The fact that the fiscal cliff was averted, with taxes for the middle class remaining similar to last year, also helps, he said.
Overall, Rose likes where the industry stands, heading into 2013, especially with RV shipments up 13.3% through November compared with the same period in 2011. He said shipments were especially high in October and November compared with the previous year.
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RV wholesale shipments in August surged 15.7% ahead of the same month last year reaching 24,460 units, the strongest August monthly total in five years. Shipments of all towable RVs were up 14.6% but it was motorhomes which grew the most, improving 27.3% over prior year totals. Year-to-date, RV shipments have now improved by 10.5% to 202,305 units and represent an annualized pace of more than 276,600 units. All RV product categories except folding camping trailers have improved this year, with conventional travel trailers growing by the most units while truck campers have grown by the largest percentage gain.
Wholesale shipments of all RVs were reported at 29,079 units in the May survey of manufacturers, up 4.9% over this same month last year. Towable RVs provided the greater unit improvements while motorhomes had a higher percentage change. Seasonally adjusted, the May total represented an annualized rate of nearly 294,000 units, an 11.8% increase over last month and the highest rate so far this year. Through the first five months this year, total RV shipments have now reached 127,454 units, up 8.6% compared to this same period last year. All vehicle types have enjoyed shipment growth this year with the exception of folding camping trailers and Class C motorhomes which are both only slightly behind.
Editor’s Note: The following story appears in the Summer issue of “Roadsigns,” a publication of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), based on data collected by Richard Curtin, director of the Surveys of Consumers at the University of Michigan. He has conducted research on the RV market since 1979 for the RVIA.
RV shipments were 71,400 units in the 1st quarter of 2012, posting a 9.7% year-to-year gain and the most units shipped since the 1st quarter of 2008. Nearly the entire year-to-year gain was in conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers. Shipments of Class A and C motorhomes were largely unchanged from a year ago as were folding camping trailers. Despite the uneven gains in the past year, overall shipments will continue to slowly rise in a challenging economy.
RV shipments are expected to total 269,700 in 2012, a gain of 6.9% above 2011 and the highest level since 2007. Seasonally adjusted RV shipments are expected to remain unchanged through most of 2012. All segments are expected to improve in 2012, with the exception of folding camping trailers. Conventional and fifth-wheel travel trailers are expected to account for 85% of all RV shipments in 2012, a new record level.
The outlook for continued growth in RV sales is based on slow but consistent gains in jobs and incomes during the balance of 2012. Improved credit conditions and low interest rates will also support the expansion of RV sales. Stabilization of home prices as well as initial gains in home construction will begin to turn the past negative drag of the factors to a small positive. On the negative side, uncertainty about future taxes and federal spending is likely to moderate sales toward the end of the year and in early 2013.
Uncertain Policy Outlook
Although the economy is expected to slowly expand in the year ahead, no forecast can be made which ignores the potential that some event could derail the recovery. How can firms plot a profitable course in such an uncertain sea? There is no foolproof method. Judgments need to be made about the potential for each major possible event, and if that event took place, how it would affect sales. Perhaps the largest uncertainties involve the extension of the tax cuts to bridge the fiscal cliff at the start of 2013 as well as potential contagion from the European crisis. Although this forecast assumes that all the tax cuts will be temporarily extended following the election, the delay will temper sales gains at the turn of the year. Growth in shipments will remain subdued until mid 2013 when a more permanent solution is likely to be adopted. Unfortunately, tax and spending policies are just one of the uncertainties we now face. Firms need to anticipate how these potential events may result in either sales increases or sales declines, and how they could profitably and quickly adjust their operations in response. In this age of uncertainty, contingency planning will help determine a firm’s ultimate success.